Metro UI

Join Nokia DVLUP this Thursday, January 30th at 8 AM Pacific for a one-hour online design seminar and learn how to win a free design consultation for your Windows Phone app.

Last year WPCentral and the Nokia DVLUP team gave away several free design consultations for developers who wanted to enhance the visual design quality of their app.

This giveaway was such a success that hundreds of developers applied to get one of the awarded design sessions hosted by Arturo Toledo.  As a result, Nokia extended the program from 10 consultations to 50 and for 2014 we are giving away 30 more coupons!

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Developers, looking for a way to spruce up your app? Need advice on your creation’s UI? Then you may want to take a look at Toledo Designs who just partnered up with Nokia through their popular DVLUP program.

Why go with Toledo? It’s simple. One of the founders of the company is Arturo Toledo, a former Senior User Experience Designer for Microsoft's Windows Phone Design Studio. The man certainly knows his design theory as he wrote a whole guide on UI design for Windows Phone in a series which we covered back in 2011-2012. He recently wrote an interesting piece on the new look for the Facebook app in response to those who said it wasn't Modern.

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With the arrival of the new Facebook beta app for Windows Phone 8 this week, the discussion immediately focused on two aspects (1) functionality (2) design. The first one is one of those “in motion” issues that all betas face, meaning some functions may yet have been added (especially when combined with the ever changing feature set of the Facebook ecosystem). The second though ranges from personal opinion to a higher discussion of Design Principles.

More specifically, the question of whether the new Facebook app is “Metro” enough (or whatever you want to call the Modern UI Design Principles that runs through Windows Phone) has become one of the hot topics amongst commenters.

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If there is one thing we know of our audience it’s that you embrace minimalist design ethic especially that of the Metro UI school of Microsoft. Indeed, this is one of the selling points of Windows Phone with its focus on design language, even for third-party apps.

Simply Weather is a new, free weather app for Windows Phone 8 and while it doesn’t pack a lot in features, it does look very sharp and we expect many of you to swoon over it due to its unique design. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Haze for iOS, though it’s clearly not a copycat.

Peep our video hands on and screenshots after the break...

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New look for USA Today

USA Today has consistently been one of the better designed and thought-out apps available on Windows Phone. It's fast, minimalist and the developers update the app quite consistently. Well, almost. The last update was back in October 2011.

Version 1.7 just went live in the Store and brings with it a new logo for the popular news source. The new design is a tad, dare we say, Metro? It’s flat, simple and less gaudy then the previous look and we approve 100% of the new change. Interestingly, the official Web site has yet to reflect the new design.

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Prepare to say farewell to Metro UI

Microsoft has decided to leave the 'Metro' branding for its new user interface on the battlefield with Metro AG and work on a fitting replacement. The European retailer has reportedly claimed the term "Metro" as trademark, which has led to the software giant looking at alternatives. According to ZDNet sources, Microsoft will be using 'Windows 8' instead. Metro is dead. Long live Windows 8, or so it seems.

We had a number of interesting suggestions from our readers (almost 500 comments on a previous article) who took a 15 minutes time-out to think up effective and ingenious replacements. There were some humorous ideas as well as plain awesome, but Windows 8 certainly wasn't at the top of the list by any means. We checked through all comments and even started up a poll for readers to vote for their favourite Metro replacement.

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Windows 8-Style UI? Ewww...

Just as things were getting good for Microsoft word is coming out that the word “Metro” may be problematic for the company. 

The term ‘Metro’ is reportedly being claimed as a trademark for German company Metro AG and it will no longer be used by Microsoft, effective immediately. Ars Technica is reporting that Microsoft’s Legal and Corporate Affairs team sent out a memo banning the word "Metro” from all public usage which is a sign that something is awry.

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In a new study just released tonight, Appcelerator and IDC surveyed 3,632 'Appcelerator Titanium' developers from May 11-18, 2012 on their plans for app development now and in the future. Though not a survey of consumer demand the data is but one piece of the bigger picture of how Windows Phone (and Android, iOS, BlackBerry and webOS) is fairing amongst developers. For that reason, it should be considered as a metric but not necessarily the only one to measure interest or future success.

The news is not very good for Windows Phone but there is some light at the end of the tunnel for the future iterations of the OS, specifically the ‘Apollo’ update coming later this year.  That's interesting as Windows Phone has been coasting on ‘hope’ for nearly two years now and developers have not yet completely abandoned it, seeing weakness in Android.

For a complete run down, head past the break…

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The new Microsoft Account page is now live but no longer 'Live'

We’ve reported on the slow rollout of 'Microsoft Account' for a few weeks now. The replacement for 'Live is slowly transforming as we’ve first noted it back at the beginning of June with the commerce site showing the new style.

Today, we’re getting reports (and have verified ourselves) that Microsoft Account is showing up on the https://account.live.com/ site, allowing you to create a new account (if you already didn’t have one). We saw this a few days ago but now it seems to be finally go wide today. You can of course login but you’ll be taken to the familiar services like Hotmail (still a terrible name) but they have not yet had their Metro makeover, which along with SkyDrive should be happening soon...

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One of the main reasons so many of us like Windows Phone is because the UI design is not only unique but equally mesmerizing. From Windows Media Center to Zune HD to Windows Phone, the Metro UI lineage is as clear as the subway signs it's based on.

The popular and influential business magazine Fast Company has named the Design Lead for Windows Phone, Jeff Fong, #81 in their 100 Most Creative People in Business for 2012. Not only is that a heck of an honor it's a telltale sign of the continued influence Metro is having on the mainstream, something that we'll see a lot more of when Windows 8 drops this fall. From the Fast Company entry for Fong:

"Airports may be frustrating, but give them this: "The signage is so clean, pure, and direct, it helps you navigate a very complicated environment," Jeff Fong says. "I wondered, Can we apply that same approach to designing our user interface?" His team culled photos from London's Heathrow and designed the smartphone's software--with its animated, colored tiles, and straightforward imagery--based on the signs' typography and simplicity."

Over at the Windows Phone Blog, they get behind the scenes with Fong and ask quite a few questions on design and what he sees as the future. Quite the interesting read both for his insight and for the fact that we get to put a face on one of the team that has brought us the fresh UI experience to our mobile phones.

A hearty congratulations to Mr. Fong!

Source: Fast Company and the Windows Phone Blog

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In a neat little historical post over at the site Project Metro, the origins of the Metro UI design language are given some detail. What makes it interesting is the information came from a Microsoft presentation on the topic at an early "Behind the Tiles" event.

We won't steal all of their thunder from the fun little read, so we'll just tease you with a bit of it:

"The whole idea started with the Swiss Movement in the 1960′s. They wanted a way to communicate to people through design, while being different yet direct. What was born from this movement was the font, Helvetica. It was the first simplistic yet sophisticated design font that delivered a clear and precise message. Microsoft knew with the rise of Apple and Android that they needed to make a change. They needed to be different but also wanted a clearer way to deliver its message..."

Very interesting stuff, especially about the use of Helvetica and Segoe fonts (Windows Phone uses a slight variation called Segoe WP). Personally, we'd like someday to see a detailed history of the evolution of Metro UI through Microsoft (we've seen some early iterations in Media Center, then through Zune to Windows Mobile 6.5 and up to Windows Phone 7).

Source: Project Metro

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Microsoft has teamed up with AnythingbutiPhone to provide the Windows Phone community with a number of invitation-only events across the U.S. 36 events will be held at 12 Best Buy establishments on set days that will run from 6:30pm - 9:00pm.

Branded "Behind the Tiles with Windows Phone", these sessions will enable attendees to get hands-on experience with a variety of devices and learn about the design philosophy behind the Metro UI. Also, you could be in with a chance of winning a Lumia 900 for attending. What's on the agenda?

  • Attend a Nokia Lumia 900 instructor-led demo lab
  • Learn about the Metro UI and the future with Windows Phone (three screens dream, etc.)
  • Get the latest information on Windows Phone for IT and Developers
  • Play with some of the latest Windows Phones
  • Network with peers and Windows Phone experts
  • Have a chance to win great prizes
  • Food and beverages will be provided

Should you be interested in attending one of the hosted events, head on over to AnythingbutiPhone (link below) to view the calendar and be sure to register for a place (enter "MVP" during registration) if you can make one.

Source: AnythingbutiPhone; thanks William for the heads up!

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The BBC Mobile Site is in active public beta, which can be accessed from your Windows Phone via Internet Explorer. This beta makes use of a Metro UI look and feel with simplistic graphics and "live tile" like story headline boxes. The new mobile site design matches the main homepage, which also looks Metro influenced.

Should you prefer a more app-driven experience when reading the BBC News website, be sure to pick up Lawrence Gripper's BBC News Mobile app from the Marketplace. What do you guys make of this new look that BBC seems to have rolled out?

Source: BBC Mobile Site; thanks Ed for the heads up!

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Gizmodo has posted a nice interview with Sam Moreau, Director of User Experience for Windows, Windows Live and Internet Explorer (LinkedIn) at Microsoft. He's basically the guy tasked with the Windows 8 UI redesign which obviously has taken its cues from Windows Phone (which took its cues from Zune and goes back to Windows Media Center). The interview is quite fascinating as it entails discussions on challenges the team faced, decisions made and what they are expecting.

One interesting area that came up was Windows Phone, where Gizmodo asked about Microsoft's new found "strong sense of vision". Moreau responds and summarizes Android nicely:

"Yeah, because that was the thing that we get blamed for a lot. Or, I would say the thing that annoys me about Android is I don't think it has a point of view. I think it's trying to be this weird sci-fi version of an Apple design language, poorly executed. Some of it is starting to get there, you know, they got Matias (Duarte) there, and some things are starting to get a little better. They're starting to get that—some sense of soul, but I do think that a lot of their soul is derived from some other place."

That sense of soul is something Apple clearly has and now something Microsoft has too. Android and RIM? Not so much. Certainly design-philosophy or as Moreau calls it, redesigning a religion, is no small task and in a lot of ways it's remarkable that Microsoft is leading in this core area. Part of that is due to Microsoft's "low-self esteem" in terms of design and with the combo of strong leadership and strong competition i.e. Apple, Microsoft has turned themselves around.

The Metro design language is just starting to hit the mainstream and Windows Phone, for all intents and purposes, was the first. It should be very exciting to see in late 2012 how the masses react to the "sudden" alignment of Microsoft's three screens of phone, TV and gaming.

Source: Gizmodo; Image credit: Annie Marie Musselman/Fast Company

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An analogy of the relation between Principles and Language could be an abstract concept like “Love” (… a Principle) which could be expressed by a concrete symbol like ♥  or the combination of four characters “l-o-v-e” which give birth to the written form of the abstract concept “love”. I’m sure you could come up with an infinite number of other concrete ways to express the concept “love” including the sound of the word itself, photos or other metaphors.

That great little excerpt up above is one of the opening paragraphs to 31 Days of Windows Phone Metro Design, which we covered previously.

Since then two notable things have happened. The first is that Arturo Toledo, Sr. User Experience Designer at Microsoft and lead author of the series, has mentioned that the series will now be '31 Weeks...' instead of '31 Days...' so he can spend more time on each. Secondly, he has just posted the latest episode which goes over the process of designing an application from the top down - and he will be detailing each step in the coming weeks.

What I love about this series is that it's written simply enough for any developer to understand. And this latest post has even more detail than the last.

So devs, do yourselves a favor and go soak up all the Metro goodness.

Source: ux.artu.tv

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We previously covered 31 Days of Mango app development, a daily post on the best way to make apps on Windows Phone. Now we're kicking off the new year with a '31 Days of Windows Phone Metro Design' lead by Arturo Toledo, a Sr. User Experience Designer at Microsoft for the Windows Phone Design Studio:

"We usually refer to “Metro” as the UI design style Microsoft is using in their platform and the one Microsoft is exposing for developers and designers to create apps for Windows Phone (I’m focusing on Windows Phone in this series). But let’s delve a bit deeper into the term “Metro” and explore what it really means. To begin with, Metro is defined by two things: Metro Design Principles and Metro Design Language..."

The series looks to be pretty killer and we hope developers take note. One thing we have learned from user feedback here at WPCentral is that you folks are Metro-fanatics--if an app doesn't look Metro enough, a lot of you tend to rip it up in reviews. That's important for devs to remember when making apps as the more Metro it looks, the better the reviews tend to be (although there is room for going outside of Metro, see SoundHound, Shazam and Tweet It!).

Anyways, devs, bookmark and learn from this series. You ignore it at your own peril in the Marketplace as Windows Phone users have spoken: they want Metro.

Source: ux.artu.tv

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Continuing the ongoing change in tech-media attitudes (see here, here and here) comes a good read from the folks at Lockergnome, run by Chris Pirillo. Pirillo is one of those guys you either find fascinating or extremely annoying--we're actually in the former camp as we appreciate his geeky observations and dedication to the field, but we digress.

The post, written by Robert Glen Fogarty, deals with a novice's experience with Metro UI specifically on the new Xbox 360 dashboard update. While many of us take Metro for granted, reading the perspective of someone new to it can be quite informative.  Fogarty's take on it is from using the new Netflix app and he seems impressed:

"At long last, the little status bar filled and I was surprised at the very different-from-expected interface that greeted me. At first I was puzzled, and hoped that learning to navigate wasn’t going to be a counter-intuitive experience...As it turned out, everything was just as easy to find as it was with the last design; in fact, I think the new interface utilizes space with better efficiency so that features are more easily accessible than they were before. (In my experience so far, it seems that there’s much less aimless scrolling necessary)."

Pirillo takes on the question “What do you think of Microsoft taking Metro to PCs and Xbox? I would love to know how Metro works with a keyboard and a mouse.” and moves on to the benefit of Microsoft bringing over Kinetcimals, Bing and My Xbox Live to iOS--a controversial move that has left many of you furious at Microsoft. For the record and setting ourselves up for some, ahem, negative feedback, we totally agree with Chris here because lets face it, porting over Kinetimals to iOS is not going to damage Windows Phone.

More importantly, spreading the gospel Metro UI seems to be a much more wise endeavor for Microsoft in the long run. With Xbox 360, Windows 8 and Windows Phone, Metro UI really is more than the sum of its parts. Either way, positive tech-media coverage for Metro UI is a great thing for Microsoft and seems to be a growing trend these days.

Source: Lockergnome

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Core77, an industrial design and development magazine out of New York City, announced their "Fast Track to the Mobile App" contest back in October. Pairing up with the Windows Phone 7 team, the contest was aimed at young developers who could benefit from not only the prizes, but the exposure and portfolio content. After a number of finalists, the judging panel (including Brandon Watson) have selected the following winners:

Bridge - "an integrated mobile tool for small team collaboration across time zones."

Blackbelt - "a level-up based business app aimed at improving company productivity and employee self awareness through objectives, incentives and competition."

Social Mints - "easily track and measure what people are saying about a company, brand or new product across the social media landscape."

Rhythmatic - "an easy to use and powerful business cash-flow management mobile app."

car-pal+ - "helps road warriors track fuel efficiency, find the nearest gas station, and monitor road alerts and maintenance history."

The prizes that go out to the above winners are:

  • Free Windows Phones
  • XBox 360 (with Kinect)
  • 1-year App-Hub subscriptions
  • App Development Deal (with revenue sharing options) to bring your design to life

The finalists have not been forgotten however. The first 25 to submit their apps to the Marketplace will receive a free Windows Phone. Core77 will also host a gallery featuring all the apps that have been published by mid-February, pretty cool. Be sure to check out all the apps that have made their way to being published.

Source: Core77, thanks James for the tip!

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I don't know why people don't like Steve Ballmer, I think the guy is entertaining during presentations and has brought Windows a long way since the Vista flop. We now have Windows Phone, Windows 8 and Xbox set to perform increasingly well and integration has finally come around. One thing we have known for a while (since Microsoft announced they would introduce Metro UI to the Xbox and Windows 8) is that the Windows Phone platform should gain some momentum through a unified experience.

As Ballmer replied to a post-PC era question at a recent company shareholders' meeting:

"We've got broad Windows initiatives driving Windows down to the phone. With Windows 8, you'll see incredible new form factors powered by Windows from tablets, small, large, pens, smaller, bigger, room-sized displays."

The reception of the new look of not only Windows 8, but the upcoming Xbox dashboard refresh too, has been generally positive. Sure there is some skepticism as there would be with any radical alteration, but the combined eco-system will eventually prove to be the best chance for Windows Phone to pick up some speed. Metro UI will be the backbone of the Windows interface and will differentiate Microsoft's product line from competitors.

Update: Fixed the quote, which was misinterpreted.

Via: Liveside, BusinessInsider

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